Oh, The Unfairness Of It All

Much is being made of the existence of 29 February—that leap day in this leap year—and its effects on various costs and accounting requirements. Even The Wall Street Journal devoted 1,000 words to the subject last Friday. After all, this lengthening of the year by a quarter of a percent has all that inconvenience of figuring the costs—including whether those costs matter—of that extra day.

But these are just that: inconveniences, which corporate CFOs and small business owners have long since figured out how to handle.

But the unfairness of the day, the unequal treatment folks suffer through from the existence of that day, that gets ignored.

Salaried employees will work these 366 days for the same wage they get for other years’ 365 days. They’re working the extra day for free. Hourly wage employees, however, will get that extra day’s wage.

When I was stationed at a remote radar site in northern Alaska—a geographically isolated location that was, by design, a one year assignment at the end of which I’d be reassigned to a non-isolated location for a longer term—I was at that site during a leap year: I had to be there for 366 days. Folks whose assignments ended by 28 February or earlier, and folks who didn’t arrive until March or later only had to serve 365 days.

Folks born on 29 February of any year only get a birthday at a quarter of the rate folks born on any other day of the year get one. They must suffer the indignity of having artificial birthdays, if they’re to be allowed to celebrate as often as their buds who were born on 28 February or 1 March. Of course, in compensation, those 29 February babies age at a quarter of the rate that mere mortals do.

And last, and worst, my wife, my dear lady, has to go 366 days between Valentine’s Days, wondering for an extra day whether she still is my Valentine.

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